In many Indian languages, the word bhoot/bhoota (भूत) would inspire some flurry of electrical current up the spine. It means - ghost. There are movies with names like bhoota bangalaa (ghost bungalow) that were the pioneers of the horror genre in India. And then the Bib-B starrer recent flick called Bhootnath (protector/king of ghosts!)
And yet, Shiva (शिव) is also called bhUta-nAthaH (भूतनाथः). This of course gives fan to the fire that Shiva is the Lord of the ghosts, and wanders the cemetery, smears the ashes of the burning grounds. And trust me, all this has deep metaphorical meaning that will scare 'The Brief History of Time' out of you. More on this below.
The verb 'bhU/bhoo' (/भू) is a very basic verb. Out of the ten classes of verbs, one of them is called bhu-Adi-gaNa (भू-आदि-गण) or bhavAdigaNa (भवादिगण) i.e. "group of bhU and other verbs."
bhU means - to be.
bhava - you be.
bhavati = she/he/it becomes.
It is slightly different from 'is'. We say -
He became angry.
Water becomes ice.
It is a state change.
That which *has* become - bhUta.
Now, who has become (past tense) is relative as well.
All beings you see, were not beings earlier, in these bodies. They were souls. Before that part of the Supreme Soul. Before that unmanifest 'unperceivable' para-brahma.
Upon birth (or conception, if you are a nit-picker) , they *became*. Before that they were not.
They were, but not in a form that could have been perceived by us.
So, all beings are called 'bhUta'. All of life, not just you and me, the supreme creation, but even the lowly earthworm is a bhUta.
Now, when someone dies, from this life's point of view they 'were'. Had been. Had become, not now anymore. They are also called bhUta - one who *had* become (past perfect?).
And hence the word for one who had been is bhUta. And if that "had been" tries to become "is being" we really get our spines jolted and scream - ghost!!
So, why is Shiva called bhUtanAtha? Well, Shiva is the deity of transformation, of time. And from unmanifest to manifest, spirit to matter and to spirit again, are all transformations. And at the cemetery, you change from is to has been. And turn to ash. His smearing of ash on his body signifies that all came from Time and go back to Time. Only Time rejoices in Time. All else is illusion.
So, you must be thinking how I can say that bhUta = all beings.
Is it extrapolation?
Modern day stretchable interpretation?
Well, look no further. Remember this shloka in praise of the Mother Devi?
या देवि सर्व-भूतेषु, शक्ति-रूपेण संस्थिता ।
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै, नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥
yā dévi sarva-bhūtéṣhu, shakti-rūpéṇa saṃsthitā |
namas_tasyai namas_tasyai, namas_tasyai namo namaḥ||
The Dévī who is well established among "all beings" in the form of Shakti (power, energy, ability), salutation to her, salutation to her, salutation to her, salutation, salutation.
And why three times? Because 'Three is a charm'?
No silly, the three salutations are referring to the three forms of the Dévī – Sarasvatī, Lakṣhmī, Durgā. And why three Devi-s? Because three is a charm indeed! :)
The Nine-Night Festival!
May the Devi keep you safe, healthy and happy.
(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी
। ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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